During the Napoleonic era (1799–1814), war became an ever-present spectacle in Europe. For Géricault, such subject matter proved irresistible, particularly the combination of powerful horses and glittering uniforms. In this final study for an 1814 Salon entry, Géricault makes a significant departure from the academic standard for battle paintings by concentrating on the ambiguous actions of a single, anonymous soldier (who mysteriously lacks a visible wound, despite the work’s title) and his stumbling mount rather than the precise maneuvers of a corps or the bravery of famous generals. In the wake of Napoleon’s fall from power a few months before the opening of the Salon, the massive finished work (more than ten feet high) stood as an unpleasant reminder of France’s recent defeats and the folly of the Napoleonic enterprise.
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